Electric bikes and the law: the UK legal situation

Electric bikes are legal to ride in the UK, though there are some specific requirements that an electric bike must meet in order for it to be classified as legal - these apply to original electric bikes or converted ones.

Electric assisted pedal cycles (or EAPCs for short) must meet the following DVLA requirements:

  • A maximum continuous motor output of 250w 
  • Motor assistance up to a speed of 15.5mph (but not over this speed)
  • The power must be "pedal assist" meaning the pedals must be in motion for power to be delivered. Crucially, this means you cannot use a throttle.

If your bike ticks these boxes, then you can ride an ebike just like a normal bike. 

  • You must obey the same traffic laws as cyclists do - i.e. stop at red lights, don’t ride on pavements, ride in a safe and responsible manner
  • You can use roads or cycle lanes (but you must not ride on dual carriage ways or motorways)
  • It is your responsibility to decide whether to wear a helmet. You are not legally required to wear one

Continuous power vs peak power

The power of a motor is a difficult thing to measure. The UK government uses "continuous power" as its definition. 

A motor with a continuous power rating of 250w may have a peak power of 500w. This means it is able to output 500w of power in a short burst (perhaps to help the rider from a standing start), but once you are riding, the sustained and continuous power will be at 250w.

Any ebike manufacturer that advertises a bike as being 250w is almost certainly referring to “continuous power”, and is therefore legal to use in the UK.

All of Boost Bike’s conversion kits are rated at 250w continuous power.

Do electric bike conversions need to meet these requirements?

Yes, all electric-powered bikes need to meet these rules to be classified as legal. 

Boost’s ebike conversion kits are 250w, provide speed up to 15.5mph, and only work with pedal assistance, so are fully legal to use in the UK.

Any ebike conversion kit with power over 250w, speed over 15.5mph, or throttle power, is illegal to use in the UK.

Are these rules likely to change?

If you want a more powerful electric bike, then there is potentially some good news. 

The UK government has opened a consultation on ebike law, proposing two very important changes to the rules.

The proposed changes are:

  • Amend the legal definition of EAPCs so that the maximum continuous power is 500w, rather than the current 250w
  • To allow the use of twist and go throttles up to a speed of 15.5mph

While there will certainly be some people who will be happy if these changes go through, our Founder, Nick Bailey, explains why 500w conversion kits may not make sense:

“500w motors are much bigger motors, which means your brakes need to be bigger and better, your bike needs to be bigger, and so the whole thing just moves away from lightweight mobility, towards actually being a bit more like a motorbike.

“500w is just going to put more strain onto a bike.”

The 250w power assistance that is currently legal in the UK is more than enough power for most riders, even up steep hills.

Do I need a licence to ride an electric bike?

The good news is that, no, you don’t need a licence to ride an ebike! You are also not required to tax or insure the bike.

You can ride an electric bike anywhere that you’re allowed to ride a standard bicycle.

But it’s worth noting that people under the age of 14 are not allowed to ride an electric bike on public land (i.e. roads and cycle lanes).

I have a more powerful ebike, can I register it with the DVLA?

If you have an electric bike that is 500w, or 1000w, for example, then your only option to ride it legally in the UK (other than on private land) would be to register it as a moped or motorcycle. 

But without a licence plate, this is very difficult to do. It is a long and difficult process, and can be costly, so it’s better just to buy a legal EAPC ebike (or convert your current one).

Can I pedal past 15.5mph on an electric bike?

The law states that an ebike must NOT power the user past 15.mph, but the rider is within his or her rights to use their own pedal power to push past this speed.

So you can go faster than 15.5mph on an ebike as long as the motor isn’t getting you there. So you can pedal past this speed if you like, or you can freewheel downhill past this speed.

Are you ever allowed a throttle on an electric bike?

The rules around throttles on electric bikes are complicated - in some instances, they are allowed.

You can have throttle power assist up to a speed of 6km/h or 3.5mph. This can be useful for giving you an initial boost from a standing start, but after this speed, you’ll need to start pedalling.

Some UK ebike companies are able to provide bikes with throttle assistance up to 15.5mph by registering each individual bike with the DVSA as an L1e type low powered moped.

But this process takes 8 weeks for each individual bike, and often incurs additional costs due to the lengthy and manual process with the DVSA. When you do this, you can only use the bike on roads (not on cycle paths etc, as it is classified as a moped, not a bicycle).

At the end of the process, your bike will have a DVSA certificate to confirm its status as an L1e bike, but it’s worth noting that it is no longer considered an EAPC at this point.

Ebike bans in cities

Local councils have the power to ban the use of bicycles or ebikes from certain areas under what is called a “Public Spaces Protection Order”.

In Coventry, after concerns that food delivery riders were riding through the city centre at speeds that were endangering pedestrians, the local council moved to put a Public Spaces Protection Order in place, requiring that ebike users dismount in certain areas in the centre.

Cities and towns such as Grimsby, Bedford and Fulham have also banned ebikes from certain roads.

An 82-year-old was fined £100 for riding a bike through a prohibited area in Grimsby, but refused to pay the bill, telling the council to stick the penalty “up your a*se”.

These Public Spaces Protection Orders are very rare, and by and large, electric bikes can be legally used in the vast majority of the UK’s towns and cities.

Are there any loopholes to the rules?

If you’re looking for a sneaky, cheeky way to get a more powerful ebike, or one that goes faster than 15.5mph, then we’re sorry to tell you that the Department for Transport is way ahead of you.

Some ebike manufacturers have been selling more powerful ebikes into the UK market, and using software to restrict the power output to 250w, they then include instructions on how to “de-restrict” the bike and get more power out of it.

The DfT has ruled that this is illegal. If a bike has the capability of exceeding 250w of power, then it cannot be classified as an EAPC, advising the public:

"Bikes sold in a power-restricting set-up, but the maximum motor power of which exceeded 250W or the powered maximum speed exceeded 15.5mph in another mode of use, were not compliant EAPCs and would therefore be treated as motor vehicles."

What is the punishment for using an illegal electric bike?

The clue is in the aforementioned statement from the DfT. If you’re riding an electric bike with more than 250w of power, then it’s classified as a motor vehicle, not an electrically assisted pedal bicycle.

Therefore, you could be punished for riding a motor vehicle without tax or insurance, and you’ll get a fine plus up to six points on your licence. 

If you don’t have a licence, then you could also be charged for riding a motor vehicle without a licence.

Can you get insurance for an ebike?

There are many insurance providers who will insure your bike as a piece of property (note: this is different to car insurance).

So if you want to protect your bike against theft or damage, then there are plenty of options.

Our preferred partner is Laka Insurance, who will insure any bike fitted with a Boost conversion kit.

What about scooters? Will they ever be legal?

Electric scooters are currently illegal in the UK, unless they are part of a rental scheme trial by the UK government (i.e. Lime or Tier scooters that you can rent by the minute).

You are not allowed to ride a privately owned scooter in the UK, unless on public land.

E-mobility specialists Electroheads surveyed 1,000+ people in the UK in 2023 and asked what the speed limit of escooters should be if they were to be legalised.

Nearly half of respondents thought that escooters should be limited to a lower speed than ebikes. The table shows the percentage who thought each limit should apply.

Maximum speed limitPer cent
10-12mph (less than ebikes)44.4%
15.5mph (the same as ebikes)29.2%
20mph (more than ebikes)12.2%
The speed limit for road driven on EG 20 or 30mph14.2%

There are currently no suggestions that escooters will be legalised any time soon in the UK.